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CONTEST WITH TEMPTATION,
ILLUSTRATED IN THE
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AT PERGAMOS.
REVELATION ii. 12-17.
And to the angel of the Church in Pergamos write: These things saith he
which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is : and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against thee with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches ; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
The third of the apocalyptic epistles was addressed to the angel or bishop of the Church at Pergamos, which was the ancient metropolis of Mysia. This city is situated to the north of Smyrna about sixtyfour miles, on the river Caicus, which falls into the Egean Sea, at a short distance from the city. It was once, in the days of its early glory, the royal residence of Eumenes and the kings of the race of Attali. There are several circumstances which have served to render this city of Pergamos distinguished, though its population never appears to have been large. It was here that the worship of Æsculapius was established with great splendour, and it was distinguished as the birth place of Galen, so renowned in the history of the science of medicine. It appears that it was in Pergamos parchment was first manufactured, and hence, according to Pliny, the origin of the Latin word pergamena, which is used to signify parchment. Plutarch says that it contained a library consisting of no less than two hundred thousand volumes, and which must of consequence have been considered of exceeding value, as the art of printing had not then been known, and these two hundred thousand being all in manuscript, rendered such a library of no easy acquisition. It was here also that Publius Cornelius Scipio, so renowned in Roman story, came to the termination of his mortal career. To us, however, this city of Pergamos is to be considered as distinguished in a far higher sense than these circumstances could have afforded; for in it was planted, though among a set of the most furious and zealous idolators, a Church of the living God. This city is now said to contain a population of about 30,000, of whom about 3000 are Christians of the Greek Church, and there are, besides, about 200 Armenians. They have each one Church only; all the other Churches have been converted into mosques, and thus profaned by the blasphemies of the Moham
medan religion. These accounts are of course derived from sources anterior to the present terrible struggle between the Greeks and their most barbarous oppressors; consequently, the state even of nominal Christianity in Pergamos cannot be accurately ascertained. As it lies, however, considerably to the north of Smyrna, it is probable that it has not particularly suffered. It is now called Bergamo.
These are all the circumstances of historical interest which can be gathered relating to this city, and the text will be most naturally divided in the same manner which has been pursued in relation to the other epistles already considered.
I. THE INTRODUCTORY DESCRIPTION OF OUR SAVIOUR.
II. THE COMMENDATION BESTOWED ON
III. THE CENSURE PASSED ON THE SAME.
I. It is important, brethren, to remark, that there is always a very peculiar adaptedness in the introductory description of our Saviour to the state of the Church addressed. Thus, to a Church dreadfully suffering under the horrors of a most relentless persecution as was that at Smyrna, and yet a Church which was altogether commended for its purity and its great riches in all the graces and virtues of the Christian life, our Saviour addresses himself in the very outset, in a language calculated to console and to animate—“I am the first and I am the last, who was dead and is alive.' But to the Church of Pergamos, commended for some things, yet censured and by
for others, and also suffering under outward persecutions, the terms, you observe, are varied according to the situation—"These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges.” A sword is used both as an offensive and a defensive
weapon, the use of this expression, our Lord most probably intended to intimate that he would wield it either in their defence or towards their overthrow, as they might choose or refuse to listen to the advice he gave them. By this he could punish their adversaries, and deal destruction among those who persecuted them, or he could turn it upon themselves, and cut off those who wrought abomination among them. He calls it a sharp sword, and it implies that there is nothing too hard for its edge to penetrate; no opposition so violent, but that he who holds this sword can subdue it. It is represented as a sword with two edges, thus intimating that it turns in every way, and cuts both on the right hand and the left. Throughout the whole of the Scriptures, my brethren, our Lord Jesus Christ is represented as no less mighty to the destruction of his adversaries than to the salvation of his friends; and when we consider the peculiar circumstances of the members of the Church of Pergamos, as liable both to censure and to commendation, this description of himself was doubtless mercifully intended to convey to them that he was as ready in the justice and holiness of his nature to punish those who caused the reproof to which their Church was exposed, as he was in the infinite extensions of his mercy to defend and comfort those who were the subjects of the commendation. And here, my friends, permit me to remark, that it is the delight of men to overlook this awful consideration, and in the prejudice and the wish of their hearts, they seek to wrest the sword of justice from the hands of the Judge of all the earth, and substitute, without the shadow of authority, the olive branch and the laurel. But no! hear it for your abundant consolation, ye who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope of the Gospel, and who, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, are striving to serve the Lord in holiness. Hear it with dismay, ye careless and impenitent; ye who dare to neglect the great salvation, and then still more presumptuously dare to hope for exemption from the righteous judgment of God; hear it both; that he who was once Redeemer, and who when he appears will appear as Judge, holds in his hand the sharp two-edged sword, and that while on the word of his everlasting truth, he will, through the midst of every variety of opposition, and through all the embattled hosts of earth and hell, cut a path by which his faithful followers, partakers of his triumphs, may reach the eternal blessedness of hea
So on the other hand, on the same word of everlasting truth, that sharp sword with two edges shall be wielded to the destruction of his adversaries; the complete and eternal overthrow of those who reject his authority, and trample so sacrilegiously beneath their feet the offers and the provisions of his mercy. Let them rejoice then that serve the Lord, because he is their defence and the wholesome strength of their right hand; let the ungodly and the sinner tremble, for when he rises in judgment, he will bruise them with a rod of iron, and break them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
This being the description of our Lord, adapted